Insights on Travel from Costa Rica Expeditions’ Founder Michael Kaye and his Expert Friends.

Vacation Time Is Precious: The Best Time to Visit Egypt and Tunisia.

The best time to travel to Egypt and Tunisia is when most people think they are dangerous countries, but they are actually safe.

I do not know when that will be in Egypt.  But I know the best time to visit Tunisia.  It started about three weeks ago, a few days after the revolution ended.

There is a magical window of opportunity for visitors who go to safe places that most people are afraid to visit. Local people will reach out and treat you like a long relative.

My wife, Yolanda, and I have been lucky enough to experience this twice.

The first time was in Spain in late April 1986 a week after the United States bomber Libya.  We were warned that as the only American tourists in Spain we would be targets.  We were treated like royalty.

The second time was in Manhattan in October 2001.  We were scheduled to go to New York in mid September, where I was to be the auctioneer at the annual Outward Bound Charity Auction.  After much soul searching, rather than cancel the event, it was postponed until mid October.

The auction raised more money than ever before.  Yolanda and I literally had the time of our lives. Everyone we met was kinder, more caring, more human than they had ever been before—-as were we.

So how do you know if Tunisia is safe?  You can read the State Department Travelers Advisory, but by the time the State Department dares to unequivocally say that a place that use to be  dangerous is safe, the country will already be over-crowded .

Here’s part of the latest advisory on Tunisia.

February 09, 2011

The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the potential for ongoing political and social unrest in Tunisia. Unrest has diminished and public order has returned in many areas; however, spontaneous and unpredictable events, such as work stoppages and demonstrations, continue to occur. The U.S. Department of State continues to advise U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to the central, western, and southern regions of Tunisia. The situation appears to have stabilized in the coastal touristic zone…

Very reassuring, “The situation appears to have stabilized…” But how do I decide whether Tunisia “appears” to be safe enough to visit?  I Skype someone I trust in Tunisia.  Here’s Jerry Sorkin of Tunis USA

Now that you know how it really is, if you can get away on short, notice head straight for Tunisia. Think of how thrilling it would be to be part of what is happening there.

Of course, if Tunisia is too far for you, come visit me in Costa Rica.  In either country, you’ll escape the cold, and by the time you get back home it may well be the best time to go to Egypt.

You can watch Jerry’s January 31 conversations with a couple of his Tunisian friends here and here.

If you have had similar experiences, please share them.

Question:  Were you in Tunisia during the demonstrations?

Question:  What was it like.

Question:  Jerry, Is Tunisia safe for American Travelers.  Then expand on this as much as you want.

Answer:   Yes, Michael, Tunisia is very safe for American travelers.

Question:  How do Tunisians feel now about American visitors.

Question:  Can American visitors to Tunisia expect to be treated differently now than they were before.

Answer:   American visitors to Tunisia can  expect to be treated even better now, now than they were before.  Than expand about why.

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4 Comments and 1 Replies

  • Looks like you’ve had good time in Tunisia and Spain. I am planning to visit Egypt but don’t know when is the best time to travel to Egypt. I’ve been searching for long now.

    • At February 16, 2011
      8:07:25 am
      Chris Parrott said:

      Morning Michael

      I agree wholeheartedly with what you say, but here in the UK we have certain legal constraints – if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against “all travel” or “all but essential travel” to a destination, we as tour operator are obliged to cancel our group trips (and to refund clients, or offer acceptable alternative).

      An individual traveller may still undertake private arrangements, but if he/she hasn’t left yet, and does decide to go, any travel insurance becomes void.

      The less stringent advice (“consider postponing travel”)means we can still run group trips.

      This morning the FCO relaxed its adavice about travel to Luxor (but not Cairo).

      Ten years or more ago, it was all a lot more relaxed. When Pinochet got arrested in London for alleged human rights abuses, and a few protesters burned the Union Jack outside the British Emabassy in Santiago, the FCO advised against all travel to Chile.

      We had three groups in Chile at the time and we decided (based on local intelligence) to ignore the advice; all the clients were very grateful at not having their trip summarily curtailed, and many wrote to thank us.

      But we couldn’t get away with that now. And of course, we were taking a risk then…


      • At February 17, 2011
        10:15:07 am
        Michael Kaye replied
        to Chris Parrott:

        Good Morning, Chris. That’s terrible that the British government would dare to tell tour operators when and where they can and cannot run trips. In light of recent events in Tunisia and Egypt all British tour operators should gather in Trafalgar Square and refuse to leave until the government changes the law.

      • At February 15, 2011
        5:58:11 pm
        Kathy said:

        Not that we were ever in any danger- but we had the experience of being in Sydney when the Bali Night Club bombings happened in 2002. Because the area of Bali that was affected was a popular tourist destination for Australians, the majority of victims were from Australia and Australians were clearly targeted for political reasons. It was obviously a somber time, and everyone was on high alert, but it was very interesting to see how people from another culture respond to a crisis like this. The most interesting thing about
        that particular time that I noticed on the street and in the newspapers was how little of
        Australians’ reactions were angry, compared to Americans reactions after 9/11.

        Obviously, everyones tolerance for risk is different, and even though the real odds of
        having a problem are quite low, I would be unlikely to travel to N Africa or the Midfle East
        right now. But my experience showed me how truly interesting it is to be an observer to
        history ( be it positive or tragic) in a foriegn land. I was certainly left with a deeper more personal connection to the place, and isn’t that why we all travel?

        • Great blog Michael. Since we work quite a bit in Nicaragua, I can relate to this very well. While the State Department is not very generous of the country, if you take the plunge and go there, you will find some of the friendliest people in Latin America and a really authentic experience. So if Tunesia is too much of a long shot and you have been to Costa Rica alreayd, try Nicaragua. I am sure Michael can recommend you some great places to stay!